Note: Eli is my counter-culture alter ego, who was introduced in “How Eli got his name” back in June.
RR: Hey, Eli, I sent an email to that pastor who is threatening to burn Korans on 9/11, and I thought I’d show it to you. We’re probably on the same side on this one.
Eli: I imagine so. What’d you say?
RR: Here it is:
I am a Jewish follower of Jesus and I am asking you not to go through with your plan to burn copies of the Koran. During the middle ages, the church burned copies of the Talmud in various cities in Europe, claiming that the Talmud mocked and denied Jesus and led Jews away from faith in him. But, of course, burning copies of the Talmud did not help any Jewish people come to faith in Jesus. Instead, the practice became another reason why Jews could not even consider the possibility that Jesus might be our Messiah.
You may think of burning the Koran as a statement against Islam, but it only serves to make you, as a Christian, look like the Muslims against whom you are protesting. And it confirms in the minds of the Muslims and many other non-believers that they shouldn’t believe in this Jesus whom you claim to follow.
I commend you for your desire to take a stand for the truth, as you state on your website. Jesus, however, took a stand against the religious and political establishments of his day, not by matching their use of power and force, but by overcoming such power through his humble obedience, even to the point of crucifixion. Anyone can burn books; it takes the power of God to display love and compassion in the face of error and intolerance. Now that you have the attention of a wider audience, you have the opportunity to make a much stronger statement by not burning Korans than you ever could by burning them.
You are doubtless a praying man, so I ask you to take this perspective to the Lord in prayer as you consider the days ahead. Thank you.
Eli: Yeah, I’d agree with that, all right, but I think you’ve changed your tune on this one, my friend.
RR: What? What’re you talking about?
Eli: You don’t remember burning that copy of the I Ching back in the day?
RR: The I Ching? Yeah, I do remember that, but I think it was you that burned it, back in your final stages as Eli. Besides, whoever did it, it was totally different.
Eli: Of course, it’s always different when we do something…
RR: No, really, first of all, this was not a public demonstration. In fact, I recall you lifting up the burner on the woodstove, slipping in your copy of the book, and shoving the burner back on just as one of your fellow hippies was walking in the door. You weren’t trying to make a statement, but just to get free from casting the I Ching to make decisions and get some insight into the future. The pastor in Florida cited the new believers in Ephesus who burned their magic books (Acts 19:18-19), to justify burning Korans, but burning your I Ching came closer to that example.
Eli: OK, so the question now is whether you’d agree with burning the I Ching today, even in private, now that you’re a more moderate, religious professional type.
RR: I guess I still would, although not so much on the basis of Acts 19, as of Matthew 5:30, “if your right hand makes you sin, cut it off.” If something has you bound up spiritually, you might need to take drastic measures. I’m unapologetic about that, but I’m also unapologetic about recommending much more caution when you’re trying to make a public statement.
Eli: Well, it might be a moot point. I just heard that the pastor changed his mind!